Review: Nightlights, an anthology from Northwest Writers
In my attempt to read outside of my comfort zone of teen romance and dystopia (with the occasional mystery series thrown in), I decided to get through some short stories. I chose this book because it’s by writers from the Pacific Northwest where I live. I’m always interested in what locals write and there’s a strong tradition of writing in the area.
This book is a collection of essays and short stories written for the Humanities Washington, a group dedicated to nurturing learning and promoting culture in Washington State. Authors from around the state are asked to write short stories on a particular theme having to do with bedtime stories and the night. The theme changes each year.
The entries were quite diverse in this book, although heavy on personal essay. Some made you think, many were very funny. One of my favorites was a tale about a neighborhood cat that terrorizes one family, sneaking in through their kitty door, eating all of their cats’ food, and scaring the bejeezers out of everyone. It was hilarious.
Another one that I really liked was the last essay in the book—a recollection of a lifetime friendship between the writer and his colleague and how they see the black community. During the events remembered the two stay half the night at a local pub (a monthly ritual) drinking, eating, and discussing writing and life. When last call comes they decide to head over to the IHOP which is open 24/7. When they get there the cops are already on scene, but they go in and order coffee anyway. Not long after the cops leave that a gun-toting thug marches in, gets into an altercation with some patrons, then tries to leave. The patrons catch him before he can get out the door and all hell breaks loose. The author ends up standing on his seat to watch. His friend runs for cover like most of the other patrons.
He examined their different behavior as coming from different upbringing: the author (both men are black) was raised in an upper-middle class neighborhood outside of Chicago. His friend was brought up in an impoverished neighborhood in Pittsburgh. He had much experience with violence, while the author did not.
What I liked best about the story was the peek into the mind of the older generation of writers, the ones that have seen social change through the years and see just how much father they believe we have to go. It was fascinating (as a young-er white female that grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago and now lives in a small town—although still dealing with poverty—in Washington State).
Some of the stories were kind of slow moving and predictable, but there were a few gems hidden within. I will definitely be looking for more anthologies of short stories in the future.